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updated: 8/12/2014 5:10 AM

School salary data still unavailable in state reports

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  • The 2013 state education reports are being held up by a delay in collecting school districts' teacher and administrator salary details.

      The 2013 state education reports are being held up by a delay in collecting school districts' teacher and administrator salary details.

 
 

The 2013 state education reports required to be completed last October still aren't finished, and they aren't expected to be finalized until the new reports are released in roughly two months.

That's because school district teacher and administrator salary details are still being collected by the Illinois State Board of Education.

"We had problems collecting the information from districts," said ISBE spokeswoman Mary Fergus, adding the agency is "still trying to clear up the issues."

Salary details from previous years remain available in archived reports on the agency's website, www.illinoisreportcard.com.

"I don't know why they wouldn't be more vigilant on this," said state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat. "We want to make sure the citizens who want to know are able to get the information and it's readily available."

Franks was a co-sponsor on a 2012 bill that ended a requirement that the annual reports include average salaries for public school teachers and administrators. He and another sponsor said they weren't aware of that provision of the law.

ISBE officials said other state laws require the agency to collect salary data, and the agency plans to continue including the information in district report cards.

State law requires the release of the annual district report cards no later than Oct. 31 each year.

However, ISBE officials say they have had problems collecting the information.

A new "employment information" collection program proved "burdensome" for districts throughout the state when it was introduced by the state agency nearly two years ago, ISBE officials said. It was scrapped and reintroduced in March 2014.

"When the school year closed at the end of July 2013, we found inconsistencies and incomplete data that prevented public reporting," said ISBE spokeswoman Amanda Simhauser. "This process has proved time consuming as we are collecting and cleaning data for two school years. Many districts are short on staff, and since it's a newer data system, many users aren't as literate with the functionality of the system."

Simhauser said state education officials are working with local districts to ensure the data is correct. She said the state agency refused to release salary figures piecemeal because "we will have skewed statewide metrics."

The 2012 change in the law was a surprise even to some of the legislators who sponsored and pushed the bill.

"That doesn't sound like something I would do," said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat who serves as chairwoman of the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee and was the chief sponsor of the bill.

"It's imperative that our citizens, who are stakeholders and who pay more locally than we do at the state for education, should know exactly where every dime and penny is being spent."

"It was never our intent to have the salary information cut," said Franks, who co-sponsored the bill. "I assume there will be follow-up legislation."

Jessica Handy, government affairs director for the Illinois chapter of Stand for Children, said the "whole essence" for the revamped report cards was for greater transparency and easier accessibility.

Besides average salary details, the report cards track the district's student performance history, class sizes, spending on students, attendance and a host of other comparable details.

Franks defended the necessity of including the salary details in the reports.

"You always want to shine a bright light on how tax dollars are being spent," he said. "It's the largest component of anyone's property tax bill."

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